Chicago ranks 2nd worst city for mosquitoes

Tulips line walkways at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois.

By Anne Arntson

It’s official. Mosquitoes love Chicago. The Windy City is second on Orkin’s list of the Top 20 Worst Mosquito Cities in the U.S.

The pest controller’s list, released Monday, ranked cities by the number of clients served. Atlanta holds the top spot. Rounding out the top five are Washington, Detroit and Houston.

Tom Tiddens, supervisor of plant health care at the Chicago Botanic Garden, thinks he knows why Chicago is near the top of the list.

“Mosquitoes for breeding really require a lot of standing water to go through their life cycle,” Tiddens said. “And I think the past couple years we’ve had a good bit of rain, especially rain early in the season.”

Mosquitoes are known to carry malaria and West Nile virus. According to the CDC, more than 40,000 people have been infected with the virus since 1999. In 2014, 26 people tested positive for the virus in Cook County.

Tom McCabe, a tram operator at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said: “I think they’re a nuisance. I remember as a child, during World War II. A lot of the men going off to the South Pacific got malaria.”

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Culex mosquito transmits West Nile. Tiddens said that these mosquitoes are typically active at dusk.

To prevent mosquito bites, he offers this advice: “Consider taking a time-out late in the afternoon and let the mosquitoes, from like an hour before dusk to an hour afterwards, just say that’s a time that’s best to not be out in the yard.”

Tiddens also recommends that people empty standing water in their yards by dumping birdbaths once a week, and cleaning gutters and downspouts. This will prevent mosquitoes from breeding. He also suggests that people wanting to spend an afternoon outdoors use insect repellent, wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and skip the perfume.

So far this year, Tiddens said the Chicago weather has prevented mosquitoes from thriving.

“When we get into the 50s, mosquitoes really aren’t active at all,” he said. “We really need to be up in the 70s or mid-70s for them to really get active.”

Photo at top: The Chicago Botanic Garden has colorful foliage and helpful tips for staving off mosquitoes. (Anne Arntson/Medill)